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Posted December 1, 2010
Another Woodworth winner!
In 1840 four different nations control what will become the United States' lower 48 states. Who controls which area is in dispute with two or more nations's making claims. In other places, control is in name only as the owning government is weak and/or distant. Ten years later, the United States is master of the area with stable borders recognized by conquest and treaties. Four states have joined the Union, double the number joining in the 1830s, with a fifth to follow in 1850. Three Presidential elections, War with Mexico, westward expansion, the California Gold Rush, Mormons and questions about slavery make for a lively ten years.
Steven E. Woodworth is an excellent author and a respected historian. This book showcases these skills providing the read with an entertaining learning experience. Under his deft hand, we follow the major events of the decade seeing how they interact and relate. While written to look at major trends, he never forgets the details that make history interesting and real. Skillfully written word portraits are bring to life the Presidents, politicians, explorers and generals that populate these pages. His deft hand quickly explains the issues and the viewpoint of the various sides. Whigs and Democrats have very real differences and very real similarities. The two-party understanding over slavery starts to unravel during this time. This is the start of the political divisions that will divide the Democrats, destroy the Whigs and create the Republican Party.
The book is organized into major sections entitled: The Two-Party System, Westward Expansion, The Politics of Expansion, War with Mexico, The Political System and the Controversies of Expansion. Each section contains three to six chapters covering the subject. The section Westward Expansion has chapters on The Oregon Trail, California and the Mormons. The book ends with a look at the problems expansion is causing. These problems will take up most of the 1850s and lead to civil war.
Each chapter while concentrating on the subject never loses sight of the nation at large. A series of well-placed maps allow the reader to follow the story with ease. The book is fully footnoted with a complete index. This is an excellent history, informative and fun to read.
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